“I went to an orgy there once.”
That was Roger Stone’s reply to me one night at dinner after I told him my hotel of choice in New York City. By the way, I got the impression that mine was not the only hotel about which he’d have said that!
I’ve known Roger Stone for decades. He’s often been a guest of mine on radio and on CNN. Of course, he now finds himself on the receiving end of a seven-count indictment from Robert Mueller, for obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering.
Notably, Stone was not indicted for collusion, or more accurately, conspiracy. The feds can charge in succession, so that possibility exists in the future. And the 24-page indictment, I note, does not put him in direct contact with Wikileaks or Russians.
I suspect yesterday was the worst – and best day – of Roger Stone’s life.
He has already signaled that he will vigorously defend himself.
He is where he has always wants to be – in the thick of political controversy. That’s who he is.
He was a disciple of legendary dirty trickster Donald Segretti in the 1972 Nixon campaign. Roger Stone wears as a badge of honor that he was called before the Watergate grand jury – at age 19!
No wonder, then that on his back, he has a large tattoo of Richard Nixon.
Or that he flashed a Nixonian “V for victory” yesterday when leaving court.
Stone has always been open as to his stock and trade as a practitioner of the dark arts of politics. Stone’s legend is also the stuff of celluloid fame – there is a critically acclaimed documentary about him. He’s been at it a half-century, and for much of that time has been a friend of the now-president.
How close? The men attended one another’s weddings.
Stone hasn’t shied away from microphones while knowing his conduct was under scrutiny.
The indictment is hardly a surprise.
He’s openly taunted Robert Mueller. And arguably exposed himself to legal jeopardy while answering questions from journalists like me.
Last November 3rd, I asked him if he expected to be indicted. He told me if he was guilty of anything, it was puffery – creating an impression of his central role as a Wikileaks conduit that was just not true.
Of course, it’s one thing to engage in hyping, punking, posturing, promoting and bluffing in speaking to the media, quite another to do it while under oath.
That’s the essence of the charges.
That Stone lied when saying he did not have particular emails, documents, or texts.
That he testified falsely regarding intermediaries to Wikileaks.
And that he engaged in witness tampering.
Unlike Paul Manafort, there’s no allegation here that Stone lined his pocket or avoided paying taxes. No allegation of any direct contact with Russian hackers or Julian Assange. Nor any claim in the indictment of direct contact with the President as it relates to these charges. Although there is an intriguing reference to a senior Trump campaign official having been directed to contact Stone.
I’m not dismissing the significance of a federal indictment, but they are process crimes – and don’t go to the underlying question of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.
And Stone could arguably have avoided some of his current legal peril when asked specific questions by saying he ‘didn’t recall’. Instead, for example, Stone gave an emphatic ‘no’ when asked whether he’d texted an intermediary to Wikileaks.
The Special Counsel claims there were actually frequent written communications.
Maybe Stone lied.
Maybe he forgot.
Or maybe he wanted this fight!
The only thing worse for Roger than being indicted – is not being indicted.
That’s who he is.